Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson and Lightning counterpart Laura Langman.
Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson and Lightning counterpart Laura Langman.

‘Birds and Bolts get defensive for derby

TROPHY-magnet coaches Roselee Jencke and Noeline Taurua were both glued to the NBA play-offs on Saturday in the build-up to Suncorp Super Netball's "Battle of the Bruce" between the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning at Boondall.

And both mentors agree that Sunday's Queensland derby will be played with a finals-like intensity where defence will ultimately decide who grabs Sunshine State bragging rights.

Just like Jencke, the Lightning's Taurua has three national league titles on her stellar coaching resume including the last two with the Sunshine Coast.

A stifling defensive end was the cornerstone of the Lightning's back-to-back titles and Taurua said nothing has changed for the defending champions.

"Defence is the area that starts the dominance. If you have a good defence, you can put the pressure on, control the momentum and then get down to business when you have the ball in hand,'' she said.

"Attacking ends are always going to score so you have to win that extra ball and then take it down and convert it.''

The Lightning smashed West Coast Fever in the grand final rematch last Sunday and Taurua said maintaining that ominous momentum would be essential if they wanted to get over the top of the Firebirds.

Noeline Taurua (with clipboard, second from right) talks to her team during the 25-goal thrashing of West Coast last Sunday.
Noeline Taurua (with clipboard, second from right) talks to her team during the 25-goal thrashing of West Coast last Sunday.

"We were really happy with last week. It was a massive improvement from our first game. Our connections were much better and Peace (Proscovia) was really stable and solid at goalshooter,'' she said.

"Defensively I thought we were great too but we know how tough the Firebirds are to beat and it's always a real humdinger when we play them.''

Last season, the Lightning won two of the derbies by one goal while the Firebirds emerged triumphant in Round 2 with a three-goal victory. The teams also fought out a draw in their first-ever meeting in Round 1, 2017.

Firebirds boss Jencke said good ball control would be essential when in possession while full court defensive pressure was a must against the Lightning.

Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke (left) during a timeout last season.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke (left) during a timeout last season.

"They let the ball go with speed and were very polished against the Fever so it's all about each player doing their job on their opponent,'' Jencke said.

"If you give Laura Langman, Laura Scherian or Steph Wood too much time and space, they get their free-flowing game going which gives them confidence and an easy run to the post. We have to make it difficult for them all the way up the court.''

Jencke said the way the Firebirds halted Collingwood's second half momentum and engaged in a last quarter arm-wrestle in last week's 57-all draw was a positive to build on.

"We were able to gather our composure and stay in the fight. We see this game as another opportunity to improve. They are a very good team, the reigning champions, so we will need to improve,'' she said.

News Corp Australia


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